eeling overwhelmed in the jungle of online advertising and wondering what types of online advertising are out there? Or how to expand upon your basic online advertising strategy?
The online advertising landscape is a fast paced, data-driven environment. Trends or software tools can evolve quickly, and users have the attention spans of goldfish. You could sink your online ad budget without much return if you don’t get it right. But it’s also equally possible to drive market-leading business growth with highly profitable ROI results.
In this article we have a quick overview of the six main types of online advertising and the advertising goals they serve best.
But before we dive in, a couple of terms to quickly clarify:
Channels - This refers to different media streams of distributing marketing content. For example, email, social media and search (websites) are all different marketing channels.
Platforms - These are specific apps or software used to reach an audience within a particular channel. It could be Facebook for social, MailChimp for email or Google for search. Some platforms can span channels.
Placements - This is space on a website or app that is allocated for adverts. These allocated ad spaces can vary in size, positioning and multimedia format compatibility.
Advertising network - Networks are a group of websites or apps connected by an advertising platform. The owners of websites or apps sign up to an ad network in order to generate ad revenue. Advertisers can access available placements across the participating network of sites through the one account.
Next up, you can also check out our guide to where to advertise online. It covers all the major ad networks and platforms for each advertising category, with context for why you might want to use them.
Skip To What You Need:
- Search Engine Result Advertising
- Display Advertising
- Social Media Advertising
- Native Advertising
- Video Advertising
- In-App Advertising
1. Search Engine Result Advertising
Search engine advertising is the sponsored page results that come up when a user searches for related terms or keywords.
Advertisements are displayed at the top of the page above the organic (unpaid) search listings, plus at the foot of a page, and have a small tag to indicate that they’re ads. They use a text format just like organic listings, displaying your page title and a short meta description.
For e-commerce, you can create shopping results ads, or Product Listing Ads (PLAs). They use images and short product descriptions, displayed in a shopping results section at the top of search results.
There are also Dynamic Search Ads, where Google will generate the ad headlines for you based on the website landing page you want to promote, matched to relevant searches. The benefit is matching your ads to more relevant keywords that you might have missed out on your own target keywords list.
You can and should use SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to get your webpages ranking well in organic search results. However, that also takes time and it’s highly competitive. An advertisement will get you straight to the top of the first page. Given that around 90% of users never venture beyond the first page, you get a huge advantage, and will capture a bigger share of the available market demand.
It’s an effective form of advertising for capturing existing market demand, as users are already searching for the product or service. That means conversion rates can be higher for search ads than with other types of advertising. It can rely more heavily on proactive buyers who already have intent to purchase. Or, you can use keywords that target potential customers at the research phase of the customer journey.
These adverts are targeted mainly by the keywords being searched for, but can also filter searches by user location and other variables. The search engine ad manager will ask you to specify which keywords and audience demographics you want to target.
Search advertisements are most often used with a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) model, meaning you are only charged when someone clicks on the ad. This incentivizes search engines to show your ads to users most likely to click. And despite the typically higher CPC against other ad formats, it captures website visitors with a high intent to purchase.
Best for: Conversion of users already searching for your product/service
Biggest platform: Google
2. Display Advertising
This type of online advertising is visually driven. It displays image or video ads on a website. Websites (or apps) that have opted into a display ad network get paid to show these visual ads to their visitors.
Display ads can feature images or videos of varying sizes in a wide variety of placement positions. For example, they can be banner images along the top of a webpage, a snippet box running down the right side, or have a central page placement in between text blocks. Users may notice these advertisements follow them from site to site via the use of tracking cookies.
However there are other types of display adverts you can choose for your campaigns:
- Retargeting - Retargeted ads are only displayed to users who have visited your website previously, thus demonstrating some level of interest or engagement.
- Responsive display ads - With responsive ads, the ad platform creates an instant ad for you that is best matched for the audience and placement. You upload your campaign assets (images, headlines, logos, videos, descriptions), and Google automatically generates ads best suited to individual placements across websites, apps, YouTube and Gmail.
- Native ads - These appear to be like the organic (unpaid) content surrounding them, whether articles or social media posts. But more on native ads later.
This type of online advertising is the most likely to be seen as intrusive by users if it’s not well targeted and gets lower click-through rates on average. It can work better for retargeting your previous website visitors rather than seeking new visitors. Or use it to support improved brand awareness as part of a wider campaign that includes other ad formats which are more likely to be engaged with.
If your goal is brand awareness, a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) pricing model is the most strategic choice. It’s more profitable for the publisher, so your ad can be more likely to get available placements over competing ads that are using CPC pricing.
Let’s quickly talk about programmatic buying here, because it’s an important tool when it comes to display advertising. Programmatic buying uses software to purchase online ad space within display networks. It makes the ad buying process more efficient.
A programmatic ad service lets you select your audience demographics (including location), set a campaign and daily budget, plus how much you are willing to spend per click. Real-time bidding is used, with the software determining the best bid to use for your ads. Depending on where your target audience is online, your ads will get placed on the relevant sites when they are the highest bid at the given time.
Best for: Remarketing and brand awareness
Biggest platform: Google AdSense
(As an advertiser, access the display network through Google Ad Manager.)
3. Social Media Advertising
The popularity of social media platforms, with huge volumes of regular users, make them a competitive place to advertise. Over a third of the world’s population logs into a social media platform on a daily basis. On Facebook alone, there are around 2.5 billion active users every month.
The quality of ad service is representative of the market value. Very granular audience targeting and detailed reporting is available to advertisers, along with a range of newsfeed and display placement options. Pricing models are flexible depending on your advertising goals.
Large and highly engaged audiences combined with detailed demographic and profiling information, plus a wide variety of supported ad formats and placements, means that online advertisers can find and convert new customers more easily than by any other means.
Each social media platform attracts different user demographics. It pays to understand the audience profiles so you can invest your budget with the best platform and ad strategy.
Once you’ve captured new customers' interest, encourage them to share their email addresses and follow your organic social media content. This will help you keep them engaged and build loyalty at less cost.
Best for: Finding new customers and maintaining engagement
Biggest platform: Facebook
4. Native Advertising
Native ads are designed to blend into organic content. They work best when topically integrated with the focus of a webpage, news site or social newsfeed. They are more heavily focused on educational or entertaining content vs. traditional display adverts. It can also commonly be called 'promoted content' for that reason.
Native ads can be anything form an article, a video, a product listing or a search listing. They can appear as recommendations, such as ‘Other things you might like’, or “Other users also bought’. It could also be a social media ad that appears as organic newsfeed content if a user already follows the brand.
Apart from industry-specific platforms, users who are shown ‘recommended’ content or product ads are selected based on what they have already engaged with or opted into following. They are much more likely to click on these ads than display ads, and perceive them as relevant and helpful. Users may not release that they are seeing an ad, as they are rarely labeled so.
As long as you produce content that is genuinely relevant and interesting for the niche audience, this type of online advertising proves to have high engagement rates and effectiveness for driving conversions.
Depending on the content type and platform, the most common pricing models are flat rate sponsorships, or CPM. Some publications may offer services for creating native content in-house.
Best for: Both brand awareness and driving conversion
Biggest platform: Taboola
5. Video Advertising
Video ads are (rather obviously) in video format, promoting your business with whichever creative video format you choose.
They can be displayed using a variety of placement options through the well-known advertising networks, which will let you set up video-specific ad campaigns.
Youtube and Facebook ‘in-stream’ ads are most common. That means they appear at the start, during, or at the end of another video, and can be skippable if they are longer than 15 seconds. Social media naturally works well for video ad content given the time users spend watching video there, with the benefit of more granular audience targeting.
Video content generally requires more time, effort and resources to produce than other types of online advertising. However, it gives you the opportunity to use storytelling and engage with viewers on an emotional level, making video a high-impact tool for brand awareness. The use of video has been shown to increase engagement with all forms of content, from websites to emails and more. On average, it achieves the highest click rates for any type of online advertising and is acknowledged as the most effective.
Pricing models for video advertising can vary from a minimum watch time before you are charged, or only if users click on an accompanying call to action or link. YouTube tends to out-perform Facebook for engagement and cost efficiency.
Best for: Brand awareness and engagement
Biggest platform: YouTube (Google Ads)
6. In-App Advertising
This is when mobile apps that have opted into a display network get paid to show advertisements to their users.
Mobile apps are a huge driver of online traffic. They are now the leading source of online media consumption over mobile websites and provide more sophisticated user tracking and targeting than traditional website display advertising.
Mobile apps can offer video, native and display advertising options, including a range of placements options. For example, in-between game levels when users aren’t interrupted by the ad (interstitial), integrated in the layout of the user interface design, or placed within content.
Pricing models include Cost-Per-Install (CPI) if you are advertising your own app. Or again, CPM and CPV (Cost-Per-View) can be best for achieving more available ad placements, incentivizing publishers to show them over ads using CPC pricing. If you were a larger media buyer, you could consider programmatic buying for optimized cost efficiency.
Best for: Brand awareness, driving sales conversion, and engagement
Biggest platform: Google Ads (Google AdMob for publishers)
That’s a whistle-stop tour of the main types of online advertising available! I hope it’s helped you with a higher level of understanding of the ad landscape before you get into more of the specifics.
Just a reminder, you can also check out our breakdown of the top online advertising platforms in each advertising category. It will help you pick out which online ad platforms best fit your brand.
Half Past Nine specialize in online advertising strategy. We help brands build holistic strategy, profitable campaigns and data-powered performance insights. If you're ready to invest in scaling rapidly, we’re always happy to have an exploratory discussion.
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